DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Just south of downtown Dallas is a hidden treasure in DFW — the Trinity River Audubon Center. The center’s 120 acres sit on a former illegal dump site, that after years of rehabilitation has been transformed into a biodiverse ecosystem and haven for a vast array of birds and other wildlife.

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The National Audubon Society was established to focus on the conservation of birds and their habitat, and Jake Poinsett, Program Manager of the Trinity River Audubon Center says their mission echoes that goal.

“Our mission is to protect birds and the places they need for today and tomorrow, as well as build a bridge for people to be able to fall in love with wildlife,” Poinsett explains.

One of the ways to fall in love with the wildlife is through birdwatching. The Trinity Audubon Center offers guided birdwatching tours where staff members like Poinsett or Marcus Cole, an educator at the center, will walk with guests along some of the center’s five miles of trails to point out the birds and wildlife.

“We are in the middle of the Great Trinity Forest which is the largest bottomland hardwood forest in the country,” Poinsett says. “Nearly 300 species of bird have been documented here and we have tons of mammals like White Tail Deer, Coyotes, Bobcats, rabbits, and tons of reptiles and amphibians.”

Avid bird watchers themselves, Poinsett and Cole say there are some things to keep in mind on your first birdwatching adventure and it starts with listening.

“Birds they are ubiquitous, so they are everywhere,” Cole explains. “And it is amazing that if you were to take birds away, you would notice that you don’t hear their beautiful calls.”

If guests pause for a moment to take in their surroundings at the Trinity River Audubon Center, Cole says at any point you could be hearing up to 100 different bird calls and songs.

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“So just look and listen and if you hear a bird try to find it,” Poinsett explains. “And if you see some movement, follow it with your eyes for a little bit and then you can focus in on it.”

Cole says even if you don’t spot many birds, being out in nature can be rejuvenating.

“What I love about working here every day is seeing the natural beauty that is Dallas, Texas,” Cole says.

There may be only one way to describe it.

“Peaceful,” Poinsett says. “It is a way to escape the hustle and bustle and it is a great way to recreate and find yourself in nature.”

“It is a hidden gem,” Cole says. “We get a lot of first-timers out here and they all say the same thing – I even said the same thing when I came out here… ‘This is a beautiful place; I just wish I had discovered it sooner.’”

Typically, the Trinity River Audubon Center has binoculars guests can borrow for birdwatching tours, but due to COVID-19 concerns, guests must bring their own.

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So if you need to purchase a pair before planning your trip, the National Audubon Society has a helpful ‘Guide to Binoculars’ on their website.

Madison Sawyer